x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

American's stint in Paris makes for a near-perfect expat memoir

Paris, I [Heart] You But You're Bringing Me [Down] may have a cliched narrative, but this book offers a rewarding outcome.

Paris, I [Love} You But You're Bringing Me {Down}
Paris, I [Love} You But You're Bringing Me {Down}

Rosecrans Baldwin’s memoir could hardly arrive with a more clichéd set-up: an American who’s always dreamt of living in Paris improbably lands a half-decent job at an advertising agency in the French capital. Once there he plans to bluff his way through each working day – his language skills are scratchy at best, resulting in a succession of groan-inducing lost in translation moments – and polish his unfinished novel after hours.

Somehow, Baldwin breathes new life into a weary format, beautifully articulating the thrill of discovering a new culture, as well as that sense of being both at home and far away in his adopted city. When the author’s trailing spouse suffers a family bereavement, Baldwin writes that “she said the distance between [her home] and Paris was acutely painful. She didn’t know where she was, only where she wasn’t.”

As the book unravels and Baldwin contemplates an (inevitable) return to the US, one also discovers that he might have written a near-perfect expat memoir. Any stranger in a foreign land will recognise his cocktail of fun, fascination and occasional gloominess.